Indonesia’s Death Toll Rises to 67 from Sumatra Floods, 20 Still Missing

JAKARTA – The number of fatalities from the devastating weekend flash floods and mudslides in Indonesia’s West Sumatra province has increased to 67, with 20 individuals still unaccounted for, authorities reported on May 16. The government is planning to relocate survivors to safer areas to prevent further tragedies.

The national disaster management agency, BNPB, confirmed that five of the 25 previously missing persons were found dead, raising the death toll from 62 reported on May 15. More than 4,000 residents have been evacuated to nearby buildings and temporary shelters due to the disaster.

The floods and mudslides have caused significant damage, impacting at least 521 houses, 31,985 hectares of land including rice fields, 19 bridges, and numerous main roads. BNPB head Suharyanto stated that the government intends to relocate survivors whose homes are uninhabitable and those residing in high-risk areas.

“BNPB and the West Sumatra provincial government are currently collecting data on the number of survivors needing relocation and identifying safe areas for new housing,” Suharyanto said. “The government will provide the land and build the houses, which are expected to be ready within six months.” The exact timeline for the relocation process remains unclear.

The disaster struck on Saturday evening when heavy rains triggered flash floods, landslides, and cold lava flow—a mud-like mixture of volcanic ash, rock debris, and water—affecting three districts and one town. The cold lava flow, known locally as lahar, originated from Mount Marapi, one of Sumatra’s most active volcanoes. Its eruption in December resulted in over 20 fatalities, and subsequent eruptions have continued.

BNPB, alongside police and military personnel, will persist in searching for the 20 missing persons and clearing the main roads over the next seven days. A video released by BNPB depicted the devastation in Tanah Datar, one of the hardest-hit districts, showing roads covered with logs, rocks, and mud, and collapsed bridges and houses.

The Indonesian government is determined to mitigate further risks by relocating affected communities to safer areas and ensuring swift reconstruction efforts.